Crashing on campus

A mock dorm room sits in the corner of the SRJC Student Housing Leasing Office so students can preview before signing up to live in Polly O’Meara Doyle Hall, which will open Aug. 11.
A mock dorm room sits in the corner of the SRJC Student Housing Leasing Office so students can preview before signing up to live in Polly O’Meara Doyle Hall, which will open Aug. 11.
Christian Vieyra

When classes begin next fall, the Santa Rosa Junior College campus will feel different; 351 SRJC students will call Polly O’Meara Doyle Hall, the new dormitory at the corner of Elliot Avenue and Armory Drive, home. At an estimated cost of $64 million, it’s the first dorm on campus since Kent Hall was demolished in 2003 at the site of Analy Village.

“It’s going to be a home away from home,” said Director of Residence Life Jermaine Whyte. “It’s going to allow students to feel comfortable, to feel seen, to feel heard. They start one day as strangers and then at the end of that year they become family.”

The Polly O’Meara Doyle Hall is slated to open on Aug. 11, and the building is expected to be 100% filled by this summer.

Students can choose from five floor plans, from traditional single and double units with community bathrooms to deluxe semi-suites with private bathrooms and six-bed units that have a combination of single and double-occupancy bedrooms with private bathrooms and a shared living room. 

Each room is furnished with a bed, dresser, desk, chair, closet space and an HVAC unit equipped with heating and cooling. Utilities include hot water, free laundry, mailing-and-packaging services and 24-hour maintenance.

The dorms will contain spaces for students to relax, study, entertain and build community. Students will have access to the multiple community kitchens and study lounges on each floor, a game room and the Kaiser Great Room, a multipurpose room with lecture and study options that is named on behalf of a donation from Kaiser Permanente. 

“They have their own space where they can be the best that they can be. Going to school from home in a junior college setting is sometimes challenging because you’re bouncing between going to school and work,” Whyte said. “The students are the source of energy on campus. They are why we’re here. They are very passionate about the future.”

A dedicated bike storage will be located outside of the building. There will also be a courtyard equipped with grills to be used for weekly events and programs or simply as a space to get fresh air and enjoy the Santa Rosa community.

The Residence Life program coordinators will work alongside various departments to host events like game nights, hall competitions, workshops and even self-care events.

Dorm residents will have their own place to create a podcast, make lesson plans and work on projects.

 “They’ll be able to create their own connections, they’ll build the type of thing that they’re looking for,” Whyte said. “It will bring life to campus; I think that’s what we’re looking for.”

With good academic standing, six unit credits and a $35 fee, students can apply through the online application. Applicants under the age of 18 require a guarantor. All charges and payments are made in the SRJC accounting office, and all charges are per semester.

Up to this point, the housing options available to international students

have been limited to a homestay provider or finding housing on their own. “The homestay provider is the only semi-guaranteed housing choice currently offered,” said Teresa Tope, International Student Program outreach coordinator since 2013.

“Beyond that, [international students] are on their own, so they have been looking for housing within walking distance,” Tope said. “That’s the most desirable, but there’s limited space in the apartment complexes that are right next to campus, so it’s sometimes a struggle for them.”

International Student Program staff and students are excited about the upcoming dorms, Tope said. “It’s just an amazing opportunity for our students. It’s imperative that they have a nice, quiet, safe place to come and feel like they’re welcome and have a home when they land here.”

Tope explained how international students must adjust to social, cultural and economic differences they will encounter in the United States.

“So if they don’t have a place to sleep at night and call home, they get off to a rough start,” she said. “We’re thrilled that the college is opening dormitories and welcoming our international students into on-campus housing that really makes this school a lot more desirable internationally.”

However, Tope is left with concerns about the dorms filling up, saying, “We’ll be back into a similar situation where international students are struggling to find housing that’s affordable when they first get here.”

Housing challenges are especially problematic for the new international students. “Continuing students, they make friends, they figure out the system, they open bank accounts, they get the references and have the different requirements that they need in order to find housing,” Tope said. “But the new students don’t have that setup yet. They would come here, imagining that it would be easier than it actually is and possibly more affordable than it actually is. We’re hoping that will be alleviated now.”

Tope said the most frequently asked questions for international students are related to housing. “That’s the biggest hurdle when I’m out there doing recruitment for international students, is where they get to live,” she said. “That’s a big issue, not just with Santa Rosa Junior College but community colleges in general. Most of them don’t have housing [on campus]. So it’s going to make SRJC a lot more desirable for international students, knowing that they have housing.”

On Dec. 13, 2022 the Sonoma County Junior College District Board of Trustees approved the naming of the SRJC student housing project as the Polly O’Meara Doyle Hall, in correlation

with the SRJC Scholarship Committee’s approval of the creation of a $400,000 annual Doyle Housing Scholarship for students who will live in the dorms. The scholarship will provide up to $1,200 per student per year.

Polly O’Meara Doyle was one of 14 women with the Federated Home and School Association who came together in 1917 and recommended the formation of a junior college in Santa Rosa.

“It is an honor to recognize Polly O’Meara Doyle’s contributions to this college,” said SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong at the Board of Trustees Meeting after the name was announced. “The entire Doyle family has a longstanding legacy at SRJC, including the Doyle Trust, which has provided scholarships to thousands of SRJC students since its inception. I am deeply appreciative that the SRJC Scholarship Committee supported the creation of a new scholarship that will help make this housing even more affordable for our students.” 

SRJC’s campus has been home to students before. In 1965, Kent Hall opened its doors as an all-men’s dorm until 1973 when the building became co-ed for a one-year trial period, remaining co-ed until it was demolished in 2003. In 1997, the future of Kent Hall was in limbo. The college had plans to phase out the building and convert the space into faculty offices. Students rallied in protest, wanting SRJC to build a bigger dorm instead of the planned new Health Sciences facility that took funding from Kent Hall. “I think this dorm is serving a necessary purpose on campus,” Kent Hall resident Joan Acquistapace told The Oak Leaf newspaper at the time. “Without the dorms I wouldn’t be able to attend school.”